Brian Turner is a writer and musician living in Orlando, Florida. He curates The Kiss series at Guernica, soon to be published as an anthology by W.W. Norton & Company in 2018. He’s written a memoir (My Life as a Foreign Country), two collections of poetry Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise, and co-edited The Strangest of Theatres (McSweeney’s/The Poetry Foundation). He is currently at work on a second memoir, The Wild Delight of Wild Things, and an album of music with The Interplanetary Acoustic Team entitled 11 11 (Me, Smiling). He is the founding director of the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.
1.Can you say something about what made you write your first poem?
I am not sure that I actually remember writing my very first poem, as I was very young when that took place during elementary school. After that, a number of years passed by and then I began writing poems and song lyrics as a teenager. I loved music and also the ability of language to reach for the inexpressible, the ineffable, the sublime.
2. What does poetry mean to you? What do you feel when writing poetry?
When I am deep in the process of making, and I have wandered far out into the landscape of the imagination, I have a sense of timelessness–and that feeling is addictive! This experience is mirrored in many walks of life, but I normally access it through the meditative practice of writing and contemplation. I often feel connected to something very personal and yet, simultaneously, something far beyond the sense of self when I write. The imagination is a vast ocean of memory and life, and its deepest waters are located within the subconscious.
3.Do you think poetry speaks to all kinds of people in all walks of life? How do you think we can take poetry out its confined literary circle?
Part of what makes Poetry with Prakriti wonderful is that it answers this very question–by bringing poetry out of the theater and into the streets and communities of the entire city. When I was a student, I would read the poems from my poetry workshop (my own poems and the poems of my classmates) to strangers waiting with me at the bus stop. I wanted to see how poems resonated with people who were not necessarily connected to the institutions where poetry is supported and nurtured and given an academic haven. Furthermore, I wanted to ensure that my poems could be read, heard, enjoyed, and meditated on by anyone who might offer their attention to them.
4. When do you write poetry? Is there a specific time in a day? What makes you write a poem?
There’s no specific time of day, though I am a night-owl and I like to stay up very late–mostly because that’s when the city sleeps. The collective unconscious is deep at work late at night. If I’m lucky, perhaps I can listen well enough to discover images and music arising from the city as it dreams.
I am normally pulled by an image or phrase that compels my ear with its music. Normally I am driven by curiosity for something mysterious which I do not understand fully. A poem is a meditation, and the meditation is a search through the darkness to further the map of the known. It is an exploration into the unknown, a kind of singing into the dark. A kind of deep listening for the voices that respond to that singing.
5.What do you think of this new wave of insta poetry of today? Would you treat it as poetry too?
As in all forms of poetry, I am moved by poems that enlarge and augment the imagination. Here’s a simple test of the poem: Once you turn the page, is there a reason to turn back and read it again? That is, does the poem continue, like a deep well, to draw water each time we lower the bucket into it? Another way of saying this–I love to read and experience poems that are layered, multivalent, with spokes of fire radiating from a central hub. These are the poems that I love to read and hear aloud, and these are the poets I continue to learn from and enjoy.
6. Where do you want to take your work in d future in terms of poetry?
Each poem and each book is a journey toward something I need to learn. I know that if I am attentive enough to the world within and without, and attentive enough to the musicality of the language, the architecture of form within language–and if I never waver from looking at what must be looked at–then the poems will teach me more about the world I live in and about myself within that world. The world continually surprises me, and poetry is a lens that illuminates that surprise, offering delight and pain, and, when I’m fortunate, a kind of wisdom.
Thanks Prakriti Foundation for organizing such wonderful event.
Thanks Kirbaa karan, Haris and Smita Anand for the pictures.
All images are copy right protected to madras Photo bloggers and Prakriti foundation.